Each year, more than six million people see an orthopedic surgeon for a knee-related problem. In the past, the "last resort" for patients with severe knee pain was total knee replacement. Today however, newer, less invasive options are available that can delay the need for a total joint replacement for many years. With uni-compartmental knee replacement, only a portion of the joint is replaced, which can relieve pain and improve stability.

The knee joint is divided into three compartments. Typically more than one compartment is involved with arthritis. However, there are patients in whom only one compartment is affected and they can benefit from a uni-compartmental knee replacement.

What is uni-compartmental knee replacement surgery?

An elderly man grabs his knee

Uni-compartmental knee replacement uses a prosthetic component made of a special metal. The end of the thigh bone (femur) is replaced with metal. The end of the shin bone (tibia) is replaced with a plastic component. The components are secured in place by a cement specifically designed for bones.

The uni-compartmental knee replacement is conducted under general or regional anesthesia. After the procedure you will have an incision over the front part of the knee. Usually, only one or two days in the hospital are all that is required. You will be standing and walking on the first day after surgery. All joint replacement surgery requires some physical therapy, which begins the first day after surgery as well. Surgical soreness and swelling may take a few weeks to subside; however, within several weeks you should be able to return to your normal activities.

What are the advantages?

Uni-compartmental knee replacement surgery utilizes specially designed implants made to resurface one part of the knee joint. It eliminates activity-limiting arthritic pain and restores more normal knee function. This surgery is often referred to as "less invasive" or "minimally invasive" surgery because the procedure requires a small incision compared to a total knee replacement. This procedure also removes less bone and retains more of the supporting soft tissues than a traditional total knee replacement. The existing ligaments and muscles are maintained for stability and movement of the knee. Uni-compartmental knee replacement, also called partial knee replacement, eliminates the pain that is coming from the arthritic surfaces and significantly improves function.

The decision to undergo a uni-compartmental knee replacement should be made by you and your orthopedic surgeon after a thorough orthopedic exam has been completed.

Am I a candidate?

You may benefit from a uni-compartmental knee replacement if:

  • You have knee arthritis on X-rays that is localized to one compartment
  • You have severe knee pain that prevents you from doing the activities you enjoy
  • You have failed to improve with other treatment modalities such as medications, occasional injections, physical therapy and walking aids

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will I be in pain?

Typically post-surgical soreness and swelling last about six weeks.

How long will the recovery period last?

Approximately six weeks but patients continue to improve strength and flexibility for up to one year.

How long until I can walk?

Knee replacement patients are out of bed and moving about in their rooms the day of surgery.

How long must I go through physical therapy?

The duration of physical therapy is based on each patient's rate of progress and needs.

When can I go back to work?

Your return to work depends on the type of work your job requires.

  • Office-type work: Three weeks
  • Standing: Approx. six weeks to three months
  • Labor: Approx. three months